Sunday, November 21, 2010

World Space Week TANZANIA 2010

Report by Dr Noorali Jiwaji:

We had an exciting few days of stargazing during the World Space Week and follow up activity after several requests.

The event was attended by about 50 people in total ranging from young to old, teachers and students, as well as professional and amateur enthusiasts. The last event on was graced by Dr Mshinda, our COSTECH DG.

Read the full report with photos:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Galle Astronomy Workshop - Sri Lanka

An astronomy workshop was held in Galle (South) Sri Lanka on the 26 – 27 of March 2010 for students and teachers of Sacred Heart Convent. The workshop was conducted by Sri Lanka Astronomical Association as a part of UNAWE – Sri Lanka, Saturn Observation Campaign, Dark-Sky Astro-Tourism project and pre-Global Astronomy Month (GAM) program.

The workshop is one of the long running annual programs in Southern Sri Lanka and this is the 7th consecutive time it’s been held. About 150 students and 20 teachers participated in the workshop.

Below is a photographic report of the program.


Officials of Sri Lanka Astronomical Association started the 3.5hours journey to Galle (South) at around 3pm.

It has become more of a tradition to stop at the beach on the way to South


The students welcome the officials with roses

students at the opening ceremony

head teacher of the astronomical society of Sacred Heart Convent

opening lecture: Observational Astronomy by Thilina Heenatigala

Teachers enjoying the beautiful views of Saturn and Moon

for most it was the first time to view through a telescope

students lining-up to catch the glimpse of Moon and Saturn

The younger students performed astronomy themed dramas which was a brilliant way to educate the kids by kids.

lets launch a rocket!

"solar system family"

a group of students who performed the Solar System family.

From grades 7 to 9, there's little astronomy included in the local curriculum. To cover the whole curriculum a lecture was delivered by Dimuth Prasad.

Dimuth Prasad giving a talk

After the lecture a group discussion session was held. Each group discussed various aspects of astronomy.

intense discussion

Group discussion was followed by a Q&A session.

Back to observations. Students learned how to identify constellations using star maps.

the students gave souvenirs to the conductors

And as usual didn't fail to stop by the beach on the way back to Colombo.

This report also appear in Universe Cafe

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Promoting Dark-Skies and Astro-Tourism in Tanzania

By Dr Noorali Jiwaji

During the seven days from Sunday April 4th to Saturday April 10th star enthusiasts all over the world will be marking the International Dark Sky Week by raising the awareness of the danger of losing the darkness of the night skies. They are concerned that with each passing day, as people struggle to progress and use more and more lights, they are in fact destroying the natural environment of night.

Most of the lights that are fitted outside the house leak their light upwards into space. Any light that goes up into the skies is a waste of valuable energy, thus adding to the miseries of climate change. Leaky lights also contribute to increasing light pollution of our skies. This type of pollution is a more recent phenomenon resulting from our growing affluence. It causes our night skies to brighten so much as to appear to be almost like day time. We need to darken skies to see the beautiful views of stars which are the windows through which we can enjoy, understand, and appreciate our vast Universe.

The aim of the International Dark Sky Week is to educate the public to save precious energy by installing lights in such a way that they always face downwards, allowing us to see our way and to protect us from intruders. This is a simple action that does not cost any money and in fact can save money, because if all light from a fitting shines downwards, none of it will be wasted by leaking upwards. Hence, one will need less powerful bulbs and thereby save energy and money.

When large open premises are lit, their lights will have to point almost horizontally. In this case there is a need to shade the top of the light so that no light leaks upwards and is in fact reflected back towards the ground where it is needed.

Any light that leaks upwards into the atmosphere causes light pollution. Though air is mostly transparent, some light is always scattered back towards the ground, especially when there are clouds and where the atmosphere is already polluted with smoke and dust. In such skies, when there are huge numbers of lights leaking upwards, the whole atmosphere can become practically bright as day. We call this “light pollution”, since it destroys the darkness of the skies above us, and except for the Moon and a few very bright planets and stars, it will prevent us from watching most of the wonders of the night skies.

Earth at Night. (courtesy of Canadian Space Agency)

There are now more people living in cities than in rural areas. Cities everywhere are fully lighted with most light leaking skywards. Even now, most of the people in the developed world are not able to see stars from their backyards because of uncontrolled lighting in their cities.

We in Africa, and in particular in Tanzania, are fortunate to have fewer lights and thereby, very dark skies. The map of the world at night from space shows how much of the land surface is carpeted with light in the developed countries. Such places are so lighted that in the night view from a satellite, it is easy to see the boundaries of those countries!!

Fortunately we are at that stage in our development where we can be completely aware of the wastefulness and dangers of using more lights than absolutely necessary. We can control installation of lights right from now to make sure we use the minimum number of lights with all of them shining downwards only.

We are also in a position to offer “Dark Sky Reserves” where we can attract tourists from the developed world who thirst to see the stars in truly dark skies. Our national parks, besides protecting the animals, can be targeted to protect the dark skies too by banning unnecessary lighting and making sure that all lights point downwards.

By maintaining the pristine nature of our environment, both on the ground and in the skies we will be able to promote cultural tourism and this new astro-tourism, where tourists can taste the celestial delights that they have lost in their own countries.

We need to map our night skies throughout Tanzania so that we can quantify the light pollution levels using the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale. We can then demarcate specific areas that would be suitable for astro-tourism and others for attracting scientists to be able to do ground based astronomy observations and research.

Tour and wildlife guides can be trained in basic astronomy, and telescopes can be placed in hotels and observing sites. Tourists can thus relax at night and enjoy the wonders of our dark skies after the day’s pleasures watching exotic game and other natural wonders.

An astro-tourist site at Mbozi - sixth largest meteorite - in southern Tanzania would attract even more tourists, since the sixth largest meteorite in the world lies there. Tanzania is also well placed near the equator so that almost the entire sky can be viewed in one night. We also have conducive weather because of our savannah climate, with regular clear nights, especially in semi-arid regions of our country.
April is an eventful month for dark sky awareness. It is the Global Astronomy Month and has followed very soon after the Globe at Night activity in March, when ordinary people all over the world went out in their neighborhoods to measure light pollution of their skies using simple observations. More than 15,000 observations were received world wide.

Immediately after the end of this International Dark Sky Week, there follows the “World Night in Defence of Starlight” on April 20th. This is of most significance to those who have lost their right to observe nature’s beauty in the night skies and are fighting to regain it by reducing light pollution. Let us not fall into the same trap, and so make concrete efforts to save our night skies both for ourselves and for the coming generations. This can at the same time benefit economically by promoting astro-tourism in Tanzania.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Events in Tanzania

A report by: Dr. Noorali Jiwaji (January 2010)

During the last month, I had a few opportunities to use the Dark Sky Astro-tourism kit:

= for the astronomy group in Dar es Salaam
= for kids at an orphanage and a nearby town, Morogoro, 200 km from Dar es Salaam
= during the partial lunar eclipse yesterday.

The most impressive of the items was the pointer which allowed me to show exactly the star that I wanted and everybody could follow. Even when searching for the region in the sky with the binoculars, I was able to point at the area and ask the person looking through the binocular to look for the line of the laser beam in the the field of view and follow it up to sky and they were able to locate the object perfectly. This is especially useful for an object that is not very easily observable such as the nebulae. I was able to show the Orion Nebula clearly in the binocular and the oval patch of the Andromeda glaxy nebula. In even for myself this was the first time that i was able to catch it clearly since we watched it in the nearby town of Morogoro which is 200 km from Dar es Salaam and does not have too many lights of its own. I have realised that a lot of objects cannot be seen with the naked eyes from our City though it is far better that in many other other bigger cities.

The binoculars are of the right power to give breathtaking views of the sky especially the Moon, the regions in the sky with star clusters such as the Pleiades, the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy and of course all of the Milky Way. The moons of Jupiter could be just made out. It is important to keep the binocular steady in this case. It would be good to use a tripod but then it would defeat the purpose of the binocular's ability to allow you to scan the sky at will.. In order to make out Jupiter's moon I had to stabilize my hand holding the binoculars by leaning it against a pole.

The most disappointing was the Project Star telescope. It has good instructions to assemble and learning exercises to understand about telescopes. However, when looking at the sky it is not able to show much detail. The best I could watch was the moon and I was able to make out the features and the ray system, which was quite good. I could also show details of a distant light, which was quite impressive. The starscope telescope is most useful to show the types of lenses and how a telescope is made and to show the power of telescope during the daytime when it is impressive to see details of distant objects such as leaves on distant trees.

I have not yet got to using the star atlas and hence the red flash since I use a Stellarium on my laptop and Astronomica on the iPhone. For remote observers these two items will be very useful.

Wishing you a Happy New Year.

And all the best wishes for progress and prosperity and happiness during the coming year and in our astronomy activities.

Noorali Jiwaji
The Open University of Tanzania
Faculty of Science Technology and Environmental Studies
Lecturer in Physics
SPoC for IYA2009 in Tanzania
P. O. Box 23409
Kawawa Road, Kinondoni
Tel: +255 713 517 009

a kid observing the lunar eclipse

at the orphanage

at the orphanage

at the orphanage

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dark-Sky Astro-Tourism

Throughout the world, people and their governments have begun to recognize that their remaining dark night skies represent valuable natural resources to be protected and promoted. State and national parks, in particular, can offer astronomy tourists and the curious public amazing views of the Milky Way. This singular experience is completely unknown to the majority of people who live in or near cities. Those few who ultimately encounter the Milky Way are most likely bewildered by what they are seeing. This need not be the case, however. A properly-prepared educator should be able to point out and describe the varying stellar and nebular features that characterize the Milky Way. Indeed, such trained and equipped educators could attract new environmentally-friendly business to their homelands in the form of “Astro-Tourism.”

The program coordinated by a pilot network of international partners who are engaged in showing wonders of the dark night sky to “Astro-Tourists” and the general public. The partnership will initially include Prof William H. Waller, Dr. Noorali Jiwaji at the Open University of Tanzania, Mr. Thilina Heenatigala of the Sri Lanka Astronomical Association, and Dr. Aala Ibrahim at the University of Cairo. Our primary intent is to foster site-based programs, where people can experience – and begin to understand – the dark night sky.

Our programs will showcase the cycling of matter from clouds to stars and back that characterizes “galactic ecosystems”. In this way, we will be introducing many of the key scientific phenomena and processes that the Herschel mission has been designed to address. Pending the results of this initial effort, we will seek funds from other sources to expand the program and so include astronomy educators at other dark-sky sites around the world.

The Starry Night is a painting by Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890)